Davies happy in the driving seat

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Swansea. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .17

Pontypridd. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .6

ON their last big occasion, against Neath in last month's top of the table clash, the Swansea captain, Stuart Davies, had spent 20 minutes agonising about what to do if he won the toss.

There was driving wind and rain coming off Swansea Bay, In the end, it was Neath who won the toss. They elected to play into the elements and came an almighty cropper. So, no sooner had the wind got up to similar proportions in the build-up to the meeting with arguably their closest rivals for the Heineken league title, the in-form Pontypridd, than Davies sat down, scratched his head and pondered what to do.

'I decided that if we won the toss against Neath we would play into the wind, but the decision was taken out of my hands. This time I got the choice and made the same call,' Davies said.

'There are schools of thought for playing with and against the wind, but the plan was to frustrate them for as long as possible, keep the game tight and hang on for as long as we could. I think we played our best rugby into the wind.'

The plan worked, partly because the conditions turned from bad to worse, and by half-time Swansea were 10-6 ahead and on their way to a victory that makes it almost certain they will scoop the title for the second time in three seasons.

Pontypridd, unbeaten in 14 successive league and cup matches, knew they had to win to stand any chance of catching the All Whites. Then it would have been a question of hoping either Aberavon or Cardiff could lower their colours again.

Now Swansea need only one more point from their remaining two matches to take the title. Both Aberavon and Cardiff may have beaten them at the tail end of last season, but it is difficult to imagine the Wizards denying them again at St Helens on 23 April.

Pontypridd's hopes began to falter overnight when they inspirational skipper, Nigel Bezani, pulled out with flu. His scrummaging prowess was missed and all three home tries emanated from their strength in that area. Phil Withers grabbed the first, when the impressive Alan Reynolds charged down an attempted clearance kick from Paul John at the heels of his retreating pack, and then Davies controlled well to bag a push-over try.

In between Neil Jenkins kicked two penalties, but a strain to his left hamstring forced him to leave the field just before half-time. With him went the final hopes of league glory and Pontypridd must now hope he recovers in time to keep their cup campaign on the road in Saturday's semi-final against

Cardiff.

The third try, from Robert Jones scampering across from a ruck two metres out, put the game beyond brave Ponty's reach two minutes into the second half.

Swansea: Tries: Withers, Stuart Davies, Jones. Conversion: Withers. Pontypridd: Penalties: Jenkins 2.

Swansea: A Clement; Simon Davies, S McIntosh, D Weatherley, S Marshall; P Withers, R Jones; I Buckett, G Jenkins, R Shaw, P Arnold, R Moriarty, A Reynolds, Stuart Davies (capt), R Appleyard.

Pontypridd: C Cormack; D Manley, S Lewis, J Lewis (R Davies, 74), O Robbins; N Jenkins (G Jones, 36), P John (capt); M Smith, N Meek, A Metcalfe, G Prosser, M Rowley, M Spiller, D McIntosh (M Lloyd 33-36), P Thomas.

Referee: R Yeman (Taibach).

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